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Lima Lawrence Departments of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

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Peng Zhang Departments of Pulmonary Medicine & Critical Care, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

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Humberto Choi Departments of Pulmonary Medicine & Critical Care, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

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Usman Ahmad Departments of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

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Valeria Arrossi Departments of Anatomic Pathology, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

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Andrei Purysko Departments of Diagnostic Radiology, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

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Vinni Makin Departments of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

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Summary

Ectopic adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) production leading to ectopic ACTH syndrome accounts for a small proportion of all Cushing’s syndrome (CS) cases. Thymic neuroendocrine tumors are rare neoplasms that may secrete ACTH leading to rapid development of hypercortisolism causing electrolyte and metabolic abnormalities, uncontrolled hypertension and an increased risk for opportunistic infections. We present a unique case of a patient who presented with a mediastinal mass, revealed to be an ACTH-secreting thymic neuroendocrine tumor (NET) causing ectopic CS. As the diagnosis of CS from ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS) remains challenging, we emphasize the necessity for high clinical suspicion in the appropriate setting, concordance between biochemical, imaging and pathology findings, along with continued vigilant monitoring for recurrence after definitive treatment.

Learning points:

  • Functional thymic neuroendocrine tumors are exceedingly rare.

  • Ectopic Cushing’s syndrome secondary to thymic neuroendocrine tumors secreting ACTH present with features of hypercortisolism including electrolyte and metabolic abnormalities, uncontrolled hypertension and hyperglycemia, and opportunistic infections.

  • The ability to undergo surgery and completeness of resection are the strongest prognostic factors for improved overall survival; however, the recurrence rate remains high.

  • A high degree of initial clinical suspicion followed by vigilant monitoring is required for patients with this challenging disease.

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Matthieu St-Jean Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine and Research Center, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada

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Jessica MacKenzie-Feder Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine and Research Center, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada

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Isabelle Bourdeau Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine and Research Center, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada

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André Lacroix Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine and Research Center, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada

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Summary

A 29-year-old G4A3 woman presented at 25 weeks of pregnancy with progressive signs of Cushing’s syndrome (CS), gestational diabetes requiring insulin and hypertension. A 3.4 × 3.3 cm right adrenal adenoma was identified during abdominal ultrasound imaging for nephrolithiasis. Investigation revealed elevated levels of plasma cortisol, 24 h urinary free cortisol (UFC) and late-night salivary cortisol (LNSC). Serum ACTH levels were not fully suppressed (4 and 5 pmol/L (N: 2–11)). One month post-partum, CS regressed, 24-h UFC had normalised while ACTH levels were now less than 2 pmol/L; however, dexamethasone failed to suppress cortisol levels. Tests performed in vivo 6 weeks post-partum to identify aberrant hormone receptors showed no cortisol stimulation by various tests (including 300 IU hLH i.v.) except after administration of 250 µg i.v. Cosyntropin 1–24. Right adrenalectomy demonstrated an adrenocortical adenoma and atrophy of adjacent cortex. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis of the adenoma revealed the presence of ACTH (MC2) receptor mRNA, while LHCG receptor mRNA was almost undetectable. This case reveals that CS exacerbation in the context of pregnancy can result from the placental-derived ACTH stimulation of MC2 receptors on the adrenocortical adenoma. Possible contribution of other placental-derived factors such as oestrogens, CRH or CRH-like peptides cannot be ruled out.

Learning points:

  • Diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome during pregnancy is complicated by several physiological alterations in hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis regulation occurring in normal pregnancy.

  • Cushing’s syndrome (CS) exacerbation during pregnancy can be associated with aberrant expression of LHCG receptor on primary adrenocortical tumour or hyperplasia in some cases, but not in this patient.

  • Placental-derived ACTH, which is not subject to glucocorticoid negative feedback, stimulated cortisol secretion from this adrenal adenoma causing transient CS exacerbation during pregnancy.

  • Following delivery and tumour removal, suppression of HPA axis can require several months to recover and requires glucocorticoid replacement therapy.

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Alireza Arefzadeh Endocrinology Department, School of Medicine, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

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Pooyan Khalighinejad School of Medicine, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran

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Bahar Ataeinia School of Medicine, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

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Pegah Parvar School of Medicine, Islamic Azad University Medical Branch of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

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Summary

Deletion of chromosome 2q37 results in a rare congenital syndrome known as brachydactyly mental retardation (BDMR) syndrome; a syndrome which has phenotypes similar to Albright hereditary osteodystrophy (AHO) syndrome. In this report, we describe a patient with AHO due to microdeletion in long arm of chromosome 2 [del(2)(q37.3)] who had growth hormone (GH) deficiency, which is a unique feature among reported BDMR cases. This case was presented with shortening of the fourth and fifth metacarpals which along with AHO phenotype, brings pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism (PPHP) and pseudohypoparathyroidism type Ia (PHP-Ia) to mind; however, a genetic study revealed del(2)(q37.3). We recommend clinicians to take BDMR in consideration when they are faced with the features of AHO; although this syndrome is a rare disease, it should be ruled out while diagnosing PPHP or PHP-Ia. Moreover, we recommend evaluation of IGF 1 level and GH stimulation test in patients with BDMR whose height is below the 3rd percentile.

Learning points:

  • Clinicians must have brachydactyly mental retardation (BDMR) syndrome in consideration when they are faced with the features of Albright hereditary osteodystrophy.

  • Although BDMR syndrome is a rare disease, it should be ruled out while diagnosing PPHP or PHP-Ia.

  • Evaluation of IGF1 level in patients diagnosed with BDMR whose height is below the 3rd percentile is important.

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Teresa Rego Endocrinology Department, Hospital Curry Cabral, Centro Hospitalar de Lisboa Central, Lisbon, Portugal

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Fernando Fonseca Endocrinology Department, Hospital Curry Cabral, Centro Hospitalar de Lisboa Central, Lisbon, Portugal

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Stéphanie Espiard Endocrinology Department, INSERM U1016, Institut Cochin, Paris Descartes University, & Center for Rare Adrenal Diseases, Hôpital Cochin, APHP-Paris, France

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Karine Perlemoine Endocrinology Department, INSERM U1016, Institut Cochin, Paris Descartes University, & Center for Rare Adrenal Diseases, Hôpital Cochin, APHP-Paris, France

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Jérôme Bertherat Endocrinology Department, INSERM U1016, Institut Cochin, Paris Descartes University, & Center for Rare Adrenal Diseases, Hôpital Cochin, APHP-Paris, France

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Ana Agapito Endocrinology Department, Hospital Curry Cabral, Centro Hospitalar de Lisboa Central, Lisbon, Portugal

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Summary

PBMAH is a rare etiology of Cushing syndrome (CS). Familial clustering suggested a genetic cause that was recently confirmed, after identification of inactivating germline mutations in armadillo repeat-containing 5 (ARMC5) gene. A 70-year-old female patient was admitted due to left femoral neck fracture in May 2014, in Orthopedics Department. During hospitalization, hypertension (HTA) and hypokalemia were diagnosed. She presented with clinical signs of hypercortisolism and was transferred to the Endocrinology ward for suspected CS. Laboratory workup revealed: ACTH <5 pg/mL; urinary free cortisol (UFC), 532 µg/24 h (normal range: 20–90); failure to suppress the low-dose dexamethasone test (0.5 mg every 6 h for 48 h): cortisol 21 µg/dL. Abdominal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed enlarged nodular adrenals (right, 55 × 54 × 30 mm; left, 85 × 53 × 35 mm), and she was submitted to bilateral adrenalectomy. In 2006, this patient’s 39-year-old daughter had been treated by one of the authors. She presented with severe clinical and biological hypercortisolism. Computed tomography (CT) scan showed massively enlarged nodular adrenals with maximal axis of 15 cm for both. Bilateral adrenalectomy was performed. In this familial context of PBMAH, genetic study was performed. Leucocyte DNA genotyping identified in both patients the same germline heterozygous ARMC5 mutation in exon 1 c.172_173insA p.I58Nfs*45. The clinical cases herein described have an identical phenotype with severe hypercortisolism and huge adrenal glands, but different ages at the time of diagnosis. Current knowledge of inheritance of this disease, its insidious nature and the well-known deleterious effect of hypercortisolism favor genetic study to timely identify and treat these patients.

Learning points:

  • PBMAH is a rare etiology of CS, characterized by functioning adrenal macronodules and variable cortisol secretion.

  • The asymmetric/asynchronous involvement of only one adrenal gland can also occur, making disease diagnosis a challenge.

  • Familial clustering suggests a genetic cause that was recently confirmed, after identification of inactivating germline mutations in armadillo repeat-containing 5 (ARMC5) gene.

  • The insidious nature of this disease and the well-known deleterious effect of hypercortisolism favor genetic study of other family members, to diagnose and treat these patients timely.

  • As ARMC5 is expressed in many organs and recent findings suggest an association of PBMAH and meningioma, a watchful follow-up is required.

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M J Trott Radcliffe Department of Medicine, Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

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G Farah Radcliffe Department of Medicine, Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

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V J Stokes Radcliffe Department of Medicine, Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

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L M Wang Radcliffe Department of Medicine, Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

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A B Grossman Radcliffe Department of Medicine, Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

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Summary

We present a case of a young female patient with a rare cause of relapsing and remitting Cushing’s syndrome due to ectopic ACTH secretion from a thymic neuroendocrine tumour. A 34-year-old female presented with a constellation of symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome, including facial swelling, muscle weakness and cognitive impairment. We use the terms ‘relapsing and remitting’ in this case report, given the unpredictable time course of symptoms, which led to a delay of 2 years before the correct diagnosis of hypercortisolaemia. Diagnostic workup confirmed ectopic ACTH secretion, and a thymic mass was seen on mediastinal imaging. The patient subsequently underwent thymectomy with complete resolution of her symptoms. Several case series have documented the association of Cushing’s syndrome with thymic neuroendocrine tumours (NETs), although to our knowledge there are a few published cases of patients with relapsing and remitting symptoms. This case is also notable for the absence of features of the MEN-1 syndrome, along with the female gender of our patient and her history of non-smoking.

Learning points

  • Ectopic corticotrophin (ACTH) secretion should always be considered in the diagnostic workup of young patients with Cushing’s syndrome

  • There is a small but growing body of literature describing the correlation between ectopic ACTH secretion and thymic neuroendocrine tumours (NETs)

  • The possibility of a MEN-1 syndrome should be considered in all patients with thymic NETs, and we note the observational association with male gender and cigarette smoking in this cohort

  • An exception to these associations is the finding of relatively high incidence of thymic NETs among female non-smoking MEN-1 patients in the Japanese compared with Western populations

  • The relapsing and remitting course of our patient’s symptoms is noteworthy, given the paucity of this finding among other published cases

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Ya-Wun Guo Department of Medicine, Taipei City Hospital, Zhongxing Branch, Taipei, Taiwan
Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan

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Chii-Min Hwu Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan
Faculty of Medicine, National Yang-Ming University School of Medicine, Taipei, Taiwan

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Justin Ging-Shing Won Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan
Faculty of Medicine, National Yang-Ming University School of Medicine, Taipei, Taiwan

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Chia-Huei Chu Faculty of Medicine, National Yang-Ming University School of Medicine, Taipei, Taiwan
Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Division of Otology, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan

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Liang-Yu Lin Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan
Faculty of Medicine, National Yang-Ming University School of Medicine, Taipei, Taiwan

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Summary

A functional lesion in corticotrophin (ACTH)-independent Cushing’s syndrome is difficult to distinguish from lesions of bilateral adrenal masses. Methods for distinguishing these lesions include adrenal venous sampling and 131I-6β-iodomethyl-19-norcholesterol (131I-NP-59) scintigraphy. We present a case of a 29-year-old Han Chinese female patient with a history of hypercholesterolaemia and polycystic ovary syndrome. She presented with a 6month history of an 8kg body weight gain and gradual rounding of the face. Serial examinations revealed loss of circadian rhythm of cortisol, elevated urinary free-cortisol level and undetectable ACTH level (<5pg/mL). No suppression was observed in both the low- and high-dose dexamethasone suppression tests. Adrenal computed tomography revealed bilateral adrenal masses. Adrenal venous sampling was performed, and the right-to-left lateralisation ratio was 14.29. The finding from adrenal scintigraphy with NP-59 was consistent with right adrenal adenoma. The patient underwent laparoscopic right adrenalectomy, and the pathology report showed adrenocortical adenoma. Her postoperative cortisol level was 3.2μg/dL, and her Cushingoid appearance improved. In sum, both adrenal venous sampling and 131I-NP-59 scintigraphy are good diagnostic methods for Cushing’s syndrome presenting with bilateral adrenal masses.

Learning points

  • The clinical presentation of Cushing’ syndrome includes symptoms and signs of fat redistribution and protein-wasting features.

  • The diagnosis of patients with ACTH-independent Cushing’s syndrome with bilateral adrenal masses is challenging for localisation of the lesion.

  • Both adrenal venous sampling and 131I-NP-59 scintigraphy are good methods to use in these patients with Cushing’s syndrome presenting with bilateral adrenal masses.

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